It is a shame that I am not as close to my family as perhaps I should be.
It wasn’t always like this though and there are times when I can recall happy family occasions.
A lot of families were out in the woods this morning walking their dogs, and the car park was practically full.
Last weekend there had been an all day archery competition, and from the preparations we’d seen the day before, it’s possible that they had included catering this time.
Picnic benches are in various places here but they are a considerable distance from the area sectioned off for the tournament.
Putting these things together, my mind went back to 1982 and a family picnic to celebrate my eldest brother’s 40th birthday.
The family was quite widespread, so it had been agreed to meet up in the New Forest on a Sunday afternoon and to bring a picnic.
It was quite a gathering, with children ranging in age from six months to 17 years, so we all came prepared not only with a variety of food for the table, but games to keep them occupied.
At the time, I had the furthest to travel but arrived in plenty of time before the festivities began with 2 foster teenagers, 2 other kids, the dog and Boyfriend. I unloaded the boot as he went to see what was available to drink, coming back disappointed that it was tea/coffee or soft drinks, though I don’t know what he expected because we hadn’t bought any beer anyway.
Dad had set up three trestle tables which Mum had covered with plastic tablecloths. She was arranging the paper plates, napkins and plastic cutlery, and the choice of food as I added our contribution was worthy of any catered buffet party. There was plenty to eat, and basically if anyone went hungry, it was their own fault.
The kettle was on the portable burner and we had a washing up bowl and umpteen tea towels for the mugs. Tea does NOT taste the same out of a plastic cup. Besides, we like to be civilized!
Dad had also rigged up a death slide from his truck for the younger ones (under supervision of course) , others were playing rounders or cricket (boys against girls) , and my sister had organized a treasure hunt.
Everyone was having a brilliant time, and Mum was busy washing up as I dried.
We looked up to see several children that had previously had a go on the death slide lining up at the food table and a few adults waiting for the kettle to boil.
The thing was, they were nothing to do with us, and when we asked who they were, they were most apologetic as they’d thought we were a mobile catering firm and were hoping to purchase teas and cake!
There were about 20 of us in total, and when it came to the cutting of the cake, everyone in the vicinity joined in with a chorus of Happy Birthday whether they were part of our clan or not.
We finished the day with a Scrabble, always a favourite, lining all the kids up (all ages allowed) and then throwing handfuls of wrapped sweets into the air for them to ‘scrabble’ picking up. It was nice to see the foster kids helping out the little ones. I was especially pleased that they had been included in everything and had enjoyed themselves.
For closeness, it was a day we could have given The Waltons a run for the money.